Securing Arizona, Securing America
Former DHS official Matt Mayer talks to NRO about the Arizona immigration law.


In his 2009 book, Homeland Security and Federalism: Protecting America Outside the Beltway, Matt A. Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions and a former senior official of the Department of Homeland Security, took a look at our immigration laws and their enforcement, including a close look at Arizona. Here he talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about Arizona’s new law and its security, federalism, and human implications.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You wrote, “It simply has become too easy to demagogue the opposition by focusing on one aspect of the illegal immigration problem.” Witness Arizona right now?

MATT A. MAYER: Exactly. Arizona is trying to deal with a real and pressing problem. Critics may not like the approach taken by Arizona, but the idea that a majority of legislators and Gov. Jan Brewer, as well as the 70 percent of Arizonans who support the new law, are a bunch of racists is pure and utter nonsense. It is demagoguery in its purest form. Frankly, it is easy for people living outside of the Southwest to criticize Arizona, but they don’t face the enormous financial, security, and social issues that come with half a million illegal immigrants.

LOPEZ: Is Arizona’s approach to be encouraged insofar as it’s a state solution, tailored to a state?

MAYER: Yes. Without question, it is the federal government’s role to secure the border and to determine citizenship issues, but once an illegal immigrant has made it across the border, states and localities have a duty to their citizens to deal with the presence of illegal immigrants, especially as those illegal immigrants put financial, security, and employment pressure on the states and localities. Arizona has been at the forefront of this issue since 2004. And, keep in mind, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — America’s most liberal court — found Arizona’s much-maligned employment law constitutional.

LOPEZ: Is Arizona a model?

MAYER: Arizona is one model of what states and localities can do to control illegal immigration. There are other places — Oklahoma and Valley Park, Mo., for example – that are also models of action being taken to deal with illegal immigration.

LOPEZ: Were mistakes made by Janet Napolitano?

MAYER: Yes. As governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano tried to talk tough on the issue, but 15 times she vetoed legislation that tried to deal with the illegal-immigration problem. Her failure as governor contributed to the emergency existing in Arizona today. Add to her failures as governor the decisions she has made as secretary of Homeland Security — ramping down border security, weakening the 287(g) program for states and localities, giving illegal immigrants work permits in exchange for cooperation, and putting in place a de facto catch-and-release policy, to name a few — she needs to be held accountable for her failure to do her job.

LOPEZ: Is there any way she can truly guarantee that the border will be safe, as she has been assuring in recent days?

MAYER: Absolutely not. With press report after press report chronicling the violence and danger on the border, the Obama administration’s statements that the border is secure are disconnected from reality. They need to get a clue.


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